Pheasant numbers plummet in S.D.

Pierre, S.D. — Continued loss of grassland habitat, along with hard winters and cold, wet springs, are being blamed for a pheasant population index in South Dakota that’s down 64 percent from last year.

According to the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks’ annual pheasant brood counts, this year’s index is 1.52 pheasants per mile, down from 4.19 pheasants per mile last year.

This year’s counts are 76 percent below the 10-year average, and all areas of the state – with the exception of the Yankton area – are down from last year.

“Pheasant abundance has trended downward since 2008 in response to accelerating habitat loss in combination with a series of very unfavorable weather events,” according to the brood survey report.

“For the first time since the late 1980s, fewer than 1 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands, the premier pheasant nesting habitat, were available for nesting pheasants.”

According to Game, Fish and Parks, the state’s pheasant population reached modern-day highs in the late 2000s, when there were more than 1.5 million acres of CRP in the state. The majority of those acres were in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Following are local areas of South Dakota, and how this year’s count compares to last year, and the 10-year average:

  • Chamberlain: 2.66 pheasants per mile; down 75 percent from last year and 83 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Winner: 2 pheasants per mile; down 73 percent from last year and 74 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Pierre: 2.15 pheasants per mile; down 77 percent from 2012 and 77 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Mobridge: 2.12 pheasants per mile; down 68 percent from 2012 and 70 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Aberdeen: 1.7 pheasants per mile; down 55 percent from 2012 and 75 percent from 10-year average.
  • Huron: 2.04 pheasants per mile; down 50 percent from 2012 and 75 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Mitchell: 1.77 pheasants per mile; down 55 percent from last year and 72 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Yankton: 0.68 pheasants per mile; up 10 percent from last year; down 55 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Sioux Falls: 0.88 pheasants per mile; down 21 percent from last year and 62 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Brookings: 0.77 pheasants per mile; down 60 percent from last year and 82 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Watertown: 0.77 pheasants per mile; down 70 percent from last year and 85 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Sisseton: 0.47 pheasants per mile; down 43 percent from last year and 77 percent from the 10-year average.
  • Western South Dakota: 1.01 pheasants per mile; down 55 percent from last year and 64 percent from the 10-year average.

The primary cause of the falling pheasant populations is the loss of grassland habitat, according to Pheasants Forever.

“By not passing a farm bill, by not including the ‘Protect Our Prairies Act’ (also known as Sodsaver provisions), by not re-linking crop insurance payments to conservation compliance, federal policymakers are all but ensuring this unprecedented habitat loss will continue in South Dakota and across the Midwest,” Dave Nomsen, PF’s vice president of government affairs, said in a release.

“South Dakota’s identity as the top pheasant-producing state, and as our nation’s premier pheasant-hunting destination, is truly dependent on Congressional action.”

The Minnesota DNR says it will release the results of its August Roadside Survey on Monday.

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